This exhibition represents a decision by the artist to presciently re-explore a work that he and his wife Coosje van Bruggen had made together in 1990.
Van Bruggen had noticed a headline in the International Herald Tribune: “Undoing Yalta, 45 Years Later, and a New Europe” and this unqualified optimism became the spur for The European Desktop, a war torn landscape of desktop accoutrements.
The work is comprised of a number of sculptures – a shattered desk pad, a quill, an ink pot, a blotter, and postal scales – all of which appear to have fallen from the sky and are now left languishing as forgotten victims of a previous time. It is a masterful play on historical skirmishes for national boundaries and the displacement of European cultures.
Oldenburg and van Bruggen seem to declare that time is never passive and succeed in turning memories into relics. The political or otherwise drama has already been unpacked and is slowly fading away; only a desolate wasteland of abandoned objects remains.
The European Desktop is the third and final work in a series of theatrical installations that grew out of Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s performance with architect Frank Gehry for the 1985 Venice Biennale, Il Corso del Coltello (The Course of the Knife). The first two works in this series were The Haunted House and From the Entropic Library. All three use history as a source material and are conceptually situated in a peculiarly European milieu.